LACONIA — At 7:30 a.m. Sunday at Opechee Point, athletes will dive into the water for a 350-yard swim, quickly change into biking gear for a 14-mile ride – including a stretch up steep Meredith Center Road – before finishing up with a 5-kilometer run.
This is the second year for the City on the Lakes Tri Festival, organized by Jan Buitendag and his daughter, Jana Loughlin. Buitendag, the chief executive officer of Tritanium Sports of Gilford, said the event fills a void left when organizers of the Timberman Triathlon, traditionally held in Ellacoya Park in Gilford, decided in 2016 to move that event to Old Orchard Beach, Maine.
This will be a sprint event, with distances about half those of the Olympic triathlon.
Buitendag said there is not as much local interest in participating in long events, which also require more planning, logistical support and funding.
About 125 people were registered by Wednesday to participate in the event, which is about the same number as participated last year.
Loughlin said she’s happy the event will be at least as big as last year’s.
“New triathlons is a tough market to break into,” she said. “People have their established races that they like to go to every year.”
Also, people now have many triathlons from which to choose.
“It’s a slow process to start a new triathlon,” Buitendag said. “You know, in the years that have gone by, when we started the Timberman, there were only four or five triathlons in the whole of New Hampshire and now there are 30-something.”
Buitendag and Loughlin pride themselves on attention to detail.
“Our races are just so safe,” Loughlin said. “We have race marshals in the right places. We’re never crossing traffic, our bikers are never crossing the runners.”
Buitendag has organized about 50 triathlons over the years.
Loughlin hopes the setup of this triathlon will allow it to grow into a tradition.
“I think doing sprints is important,” she said. “That’s kind of the entry level for so many people. Nobody is going to sign up to do a half-Ironman their first-ever triathlon.
“I have a number of people who are emailing and saying, ‘Hey, this is my first triathlon. Is this a good one to start with?’
“Because we’re kind of small, I feel we are a good one to start with.”
Buitendag, who has participated in dozens of triathlons himself, said the swimming portion is usually the most intimidating section.
“A lot of people are still scared of the swim part,” he said. “During Ironman competitions you can have a wave of 200 people starting. They swim over you.”
Ironman Triathlons feature a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile run.
In the local competition, swimmers will be sent into the water in relatively small groups every two minutes.
Registration for the event is $110.